T Nation

Slight Blackout After Deadlifts

Good morning, my name is Mike and I am new to the site, and appreciate all the great info.

I’m in week 10 of StrongLifts 5x5, am 51 years old, and overall in pretty good shape, other than I had a spinal fusion @ L5T1 (tailbone and lowest vertebrae) due to a broken spine from a horseback riding accident.

The StongLifts is going well, but I am getting to the point where the weight is feeling really heavy, and I’m beginning to struggle with form at the end of my sets.

Also, after my last sets of deadlifts, I’m experiencing a slight to moderate blackout condition. Any thoughts on this?

I’m considering stepping back the weights by deloading to around week 6 levels, and starting over from there.

My 5x5s are currently:

BodyWeight = 185# @ 5’10"

Squat = 175#
Bench = 165#
Barbell row = 125#
Overhead press = 115# (this one my fomr is breaking down badly at the last reps)
Deadlift = 215#

Thanks for any advice!

Mike

[quote]MKM5 wrote:
Also, after my last sets of deadlifts, I’m experiencing a slight to moderate blackout condition. Any thoughts on this?
[/quote]
I have a friend who is a high-level lifter who was having this exact problem for a time. Let me see what I can find out from him.

Can you explain with more detail what you mean by a slight to moderate blackout condition?

[quote]drewc64 wrote:
Can you explain with more detail what you mean by a slight to moderate blackout condition?[/quote]

When I am performing the deadlift, my lower body was shaky, and after completing the lift, I got very lightheaded and was seeing spots and losing my balance, I recovered in a couple of minutes and completed the next two reps with about 5 minutes of rest in between each rep. Same thing happened each time.

I’m doing more of a 5x1, 5 sets of 1 for the deadlift to try to maintain proper form.

Also, after 10 years of back pain and issues post surgery (I could barely walk prior to surgery), 10 weeks of stronglifts has me nearly pain-free!

Also, I purchased some 1.25# plates, and thought of deloading to week 6, then going up in 2.5# increments per workout versus 5#; I’m currently adding 5# to each lift (5x5) every time and 10# on deadlifts every time (1x5).

Last workout, when i deadlifted 205, it felt really good, form was good, and I felt confident and strong, yesterday 215 was HARD!! I have been under a lot of stress due to work issues and the recent break-up from my girlfriend (and best friend) of 2 years…

My diet is normally exceptional, and I try to get 8-10 hours of sleep at night, but with everything going on, I’ve had a hard time even eating anything, but supplementing with whey protein and trying for 200 grams of protein per day. I eat pretty much only raw healthy foods, but haven’t had as much fruits and vegetables as I usually do lately. I typically eat tons of fresh seafood and spinach and asparagus, etc, and try to eat 6 times/day, and drink 80 ounces of Sobe Life Water daily (0 grams of carbs). I limit my carbs to post workout as much as I can.

Probably drinking too much with all the stress and also smoking cigarettes in the evening; I do not smoke all day long, only in the evening. My goal is to cut out the drinking and smoking completely to focus on my strength training.

I’m no expert but the first thing I would check would be my blood pressure.

When was the last time you had it checked?

[quote]late2thegame wrote:
I’m no expert but the first thing I would check would be my blood pressure.

When was the last time you had it checked?[/quote]

I had a full stress test last month, everything was normal, but I am on medication for high blood pressure for the past 30 years. My blood pressure has lowered a lot since lifting again!

Well, smoking, drinking, not enough solid food, stress, will all leave you uneven… trust me, I know going through divorce, career stress, etc and I have fallen into modified bad habits from time to time.

That being said christ any of the top level lifters I have trained with do everything from blackout, passout, puke, curl up in fetal positions, cry to their mama, pray to their lord, question their sexual orientation, change their political leaning, go to tacky strip clubs, do socially inept and embarassing things in front of the opposite sex, etc etc etc after a hard training session. And hard can be made harder due to bad diet, stress, etc.

[quote]MKM5 wrote:

[quote]late2thegame wrote:
I’m no expert but the first thing I would check would be my blood pressure.

When was the last time you had it checked?[/quote]

I had a full stress test last month, everything was normal, but I am on medication for high blood pressure for the past 30 years. My blood pressure has lowered a lot since lifting again![/quote]
If you have a BP home machine take it to the gym with you. If you have been on BP meds and are now working out you maybe bottoming out your BP. Check it after you do DL and monitor your BP three times a week at different times of the day for the next two weeks. Take those readings to your Dr.

Thank you for the support and suggestions!

I lift alone at home in my basement, and live alone as well, so the blackout thing has me a little concerned in case something bad were to happen.

Maybe I should wear a helmet when deadlfting from now on??!!

Sounds like the breathing part of it plays a big factor.

Still thinking of deloading and slowly working back up to the weights I’m lifting now, to better focus on form.

Or maybe take two 3 day breaks, instead of one per week, and stretch it out a little more for more recovery between lifts?

Thanks again!

Mike

[quote]MKM5 wrote:
I got very lightheaded and was seeing spots and losing my balance, I recovered in a couple of minutes. . .[/quote]

This happens to me virtually every time I get over 95% of max or so on Zerchers from pins.

I blacked out on benching at my last meet. Everything went dark but I was totally aware of pushing.
See heavens gate when I pull max weight.

The condition you are describing is called ‘presyncope.’ The differential for presyncope is quite extensive, but the vast majority of cases are secondary to cerebral hypoperfusion, ie, not enough blood (and therefore oxygen) to the brain. (Low glucose can do it as well, but that doesn’t fit the pattern you’re describing.)

The $64K question is, what’s causing the hypoperfusion? It may be something as simple as you are holding your breath and Valsalva-ing too long–the Valsalva maneuver decreases venous return to the heart, which will eventually lead to decreased cardiac output, which in turn leads to cerebral hypoperfusion and presyncope (if not frank syncope–ie, passing out). However, several things about your story give me pause:
–Your age (which is my age, BTW)
–You’re a longstanding vasculopath (ie, you have had HTN x 30 years)
–You smoke and drink
–It only happens during DLs (as opposed to other Valsalva-inducing exercises, like squats)

The fact that you recently ‘passed’ a stress test is reassuring. Nevertheless, the prudent course of action would be to discuss this symptom with your physician. Exertional onset is considered a definite ‘red flag’ finding for syncope; its relation to presyncope is less clear. The results of your recent stress test should allow your physician to narrow the differential considerably–if you had a cardiac arrhythmia, for example, it should have been detected at that time–and allow a more focused workup.

IMO, given your age and history, it boils down to a case of ‘better safe than sorry.’ Best of luck.

Thank you for the excellent information!

I’m still wondering about deloading, since the program I’m using (Stronglifts 5x5) seems to be geared towards much younger people?

I’ve also read a lot on-line, and have a LOT of respect for the Starting Strength program and information, and wondering if that would have been a better program for me due to 3x5 instead of 5x5; maybe 5x5 is too much volume at my age of 51 years?

I have not stalled yet on 5x5, but it is getting REALLY hard for me now, and I’m getting concerned about possible injury, although I feel as fit and strong now as I did when I was 22 years old and lifting occasionally; I haven’t lifted since for 30 years, because my wife at the time did not like me lifting (even though I always lifted at home and never went to any gym).

Or should I just switch to Starting Strength anyway either at the weights I’m at now, or just start over from the beginning?

I know I only have 2 weeks left on 5x5, so maybe I should just dig deep and get it done??

Mike

Hi, Mike. Not much to add to what the others said. I will point out that you said the weights are getting heavy. That tells me you’re increasing weight faster than your strength can keep up. As the others pointed out, getting lightheaded is common when pulling max weight, which is fine for a meet, but should not be a daily event.

I’ve also problems on 5 x 5, where the weight seemed to get heavier than it should. I could still get it up, but barely, and really had to strain at it. Don’t think that just because the bar comes up, the weight’s OK.

As for “digging deep” - that’s the worst thing to do. You’re already under plenty of stress, don’t push it.

Thank you! I’m going to deload to week 6 levels…

I recently purchased some 1.25# plates, so I can add 2.5# each time instead of 5#, and I will drop the deadlift from 10# increases to 5# increases.

If 5x5 volume is not necessary for me based on what I have read from the EXCELLENT resources of Rippetoe on Starting Strength, should I also switch to 3x5?

I already am doing Power Cleans when I Overhead Press versus rack pulls, so I’m basically doing a very similar program to Starting Strength other than the Barbell Rows which Ripp does not recommend for the novice program.

Just trying to find ways to keep my motivation level high to get downstairs and get under the bar, versus worrying about injury with weights that feel too heavy.

I read somewhere that the combination of hyperventilating before a lift and then using the valsalva maneuver can cause a drop in blood pressure after releasing the valsalva. I used to take a lot of deep breaths before a squat or deadlift set to prep for the lift, and invariably I would come close to blacking out after the set. Since I made a conscious effort not to hyperventilate, the situation has greatly improved.

I got through my training today, at Week 7 weight levels, and form was very good and I even got my squats deeper!

Dead Lifts went fine, I spent more time with warm-up sets.

I think part of my blackout problem was that I would take a big breath while setting up, and holding it too long while making sure my form was set properly before beginning the pull, so too much time not breathing maybe.

Thanks for all the great advice and support!

Mike